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Editorial: New judges add more than needed diversity

Rebecca Collier
June 23, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

Those of us on staff here at the newspaper that grew up in Indiana and were of a certain age to pay attention to the news can likely recall when Judge Sarah Evans Barker was confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

It was a big deal, the first female federal judge here, in an era when few women were in positions of power and authority. All of a sudden, here was a role model, though she may not have wanted that job. Someone for women who were young at the time to look to and consider “Well, if she can be a federal judge, then why can’t I ____?” and we filled in our own blank. She’s an intelligent woman, whose quick wit and easy manner we’d later discover puts people at ease, and a gifted storyteller.

Fast-forward about 30 years – how could it have taken 30 years? – and then there were two female federal judges with the addition of the Hon. Theresa Springmann in Indiana’s Northern District. Judge Springmann had been a magistrate judge in that court before being confirmed as an Article III judge in 2003.

What Judge Barker says in a news story in this issue of the newspaper about the absolutely historic confirmation of Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson and Judge Tanya Walton Pratt is worth repeating here:

“You may not be able to tell any difference in work product or whether an opinion is written by a man or woman judge, but this will enhance the quality of justice and makes it deeper and broader and even more credible.”

That’s what bringing diversity to the federal bench will do for all of us.

“Their coming to the court is so special and new, but it’s been a long time coming,” Judge Barker continued speaking about her new colleagues. “It matters so much that the bench is diverse, and in rapid order we’ve gone to being a majority on the court after many years of being a distinct minority.”

It also matters more than words can express that the federal bench in Indiana finally has its first African-American judge. Judge Pratt may now be a member of a majority on the federal bench in the Southern District, but she is still a part of a distinct minority.

“This has been a test of patience,” Judge Pratt told our reporter, speaking about the nomination process, “but I’m so very happy and honored. I do respect the historic significance of being the first African-American in the state to join the federal bench, and that’s really a credit to Sen. (Evan) Bayh for looking outside the traditional group of candidates to be inclusive.”

One can hardly overstate the importance of having an African-American judge on the federal bench, for the same reason Judge Barker was such an inspiration for all Indiana women who would take notice of her, even those who would never attend a law school.

“You have to have those distinguished role models … so you can see others work hard and do it, and know that you can, too,” Judge Pratt said. She and Judge Magnus-Stinson are of the same mind when they said that one of the best parts of all this has been to see the pride in their daughters’ eyes over their accomplishments. “Any little girl can do it.”•
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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